TORONTO — In the wake of winter sun flight cancellations by Canada’s four major airlines, Sunwing has a message of support for travel agents who are facing more rebookings and commission recalls ahead.
Speaking with Travelweek, Melanie Filipp, Sunwing’s Director of Corporate Communications and Media Relations, says that the airline is standing by agents and values their business.
“We know this is a challenging time and we empathize with our travel agent partners who are juggling financial strain, all while working tirelessly to guide customers through the ongoing travel restrictions and help them manage their upcoming or cancelled vacation bookings,” she says. “We are confident that, by working together, we will come out even stronger on the other side of this. In the meantime, we’re always here to lend a helping hand to our travel agents and address questions or concerns they may have.”
Announced on Jan. 29, in a move that took effect Jan. 31, Sunwing, along with Air Canada, WestJet and Transat, cancelled all flights to the Caribbean and Mexico through April 30 at the request of the federal government as part of ongoing efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and all its new variants.
All four airlines are offering refunds to passengers impacted by the cancellations.
According to Filipp, the cancellations – though unexpected – are not anticipated to have long-term effects for the airline.
“Prior to the new travel restrictions, we were already operating a more modest winter flight schedule to a few select sun destinations so we are not expecting a significant impact on our business over the long-term,” she says, adding that Sunwing is planning an eventual return to service in the spring.
“We are using the next few months to further hone in on our efforts to optimize and streamline the entire customer journey. We know that the demand for travel, particularly to sun destinations, will always be there. Once the travel restrictions are lifted, and as more Canadians are vaccinated and ready to safely travel again, we will be there to provide them with even more seamless vacation experiences, under our wing,” says Filipp.
Sunwing’s hopeful outlook will also be buoyed by a new loan – announced by the Canada Enterprise Emergency Funding Corp. (CEEFC) and made under the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) – that will give the carrier access to $375 million of liquidity. It’s expected that these funds will go towards protecting jobs in Canada’s airline sector.
Combined, Sunwing Airlines and Sunwing Vacations provide nearly 3,000 Canadians with full-time jobs.
Sunwing has agreed to maintain an account with money received from customers for travel that was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This account will be maintained until the government’s broader discussions with the airline industry conclude and a policy is established for the treatment of these pre-paid amounts.
LEEFF loans provide bridge financing to Canada’s largest employers whose needs during the pandemic are not being met through private market financing. Open to all large, for-profit Canadian employers who provide millions of jobs to Canadians, LEEFF provides these employers with access to credit to preserve jobs and continue operations during this difficult time.